Category Archives: Human Inspiration

Reach Out and Touch Her: U2’s 2017 Concert Tour Honors HERoic Women

Phoenix—September 19, 2017

There, under the veil of a white cotton sheet, my eager fingers reach up and touch her dark face. She is beautiful. Her soulful eyes speak of sadness and strife, but she seems hopeful as we all touch her, as we all feel her sadness, her pain, her hope. She is no longer a refugee of a war-torn country. She has by now travelled the world, been touched by over a million hands and has touched them in return.

In an already powerful recording by U2 of their 1987 “Joshua Tree” album, this year’s live performance goes even deeper. The simple act of thousands of concert goers in the stands passing along a colossal 40-foot by 40-foot white sheet over their heads printed with the lone image of a dark-haired, dark-skinned 15-year-old woman-child with deep brown eyes did something to me no other concert experience ever did.

After we are introduced through video to a 15-year-old Syrian woman-child by the name of Omaima who speaks of staying hopeful and of the dream of someday coming to the wonderful United States to experience true freedom, Bono begins singing the words to “Miss Sarajevo”—“ Is there a time for keeping your distance . . . a time to turn your eyes away? Is there a time for keeping your head down . . . for getting on with your day? . . . “—while video clips of women and children living among the rubble of a war-torn city depict the daily reality of countries around the world.

Halfway through the song, the white sheet with the printed image of this lone young woman upon it emerges on the opposite side of the stadium from me. Bono points off to the right of the stage, to the middle-tier seating where the sheet overtakes an entire section of seats. “Here she comes!” he said, “Look! Over there!” Just then, a spotlight shines upon her face, which begins what will be her guided passage around the University of Phoenix’s open-aired stadium this beautiful, hot September night.

While the entire audience studies this floating image in the stands and on the screens on stage, we in the mid-rows anticipate our chance at being a part of her journey. At the exact opposite side of the stadium, those in my section have at least three minutes to consider the meaning of the words of the song relative to the young woman we might soon touch with our own hands.

U2 2017 Joshua Tree Concert Tour, Herstory, HERoes, honoring women, tribute to women, syrian refugees, impoverished countries, concert review

Because we are in the cheap seats on the sharp side of the stage, we can’t read all the words on the screen, can’t entirely make out all she has said. So, in the moment I know I am not alone in wondering: Who is she? Is it someone I should know? Have I not been paying attention to the world beyond me? Is she a refugee? From what country? Is she a burgeoning freedom fighter—a future leader of women and men?

By the time I have a chance to touch her, Bono has moved on to the next song, “Beautiful Day.” By now, the tone and message lifts to the level of positive affirmation. While the beautiful, soulful, sad, and, yes, hopeful mystery girl floats above me, I am joyful, smiling brightly as I reach up to touch her and help her along her way. All around me, fully engaged people of every age, gender, race, and religion are doing the same. When she leaves my fingertips and disappears from view, I turn to see Bono on the center island of the stage belting out the words, “It’s a beautiful day . . . the sky falls and you feel like it’s a beautiful day . . . “ The juxtaposition of the value-questioning“ Miss Sarajevo” lyrics (comparing what we THINK is important in life with WHAT TRULY IS important) followed by the affirmation-driven “Beautiful Day” lyrics (reminding us to embrace each day and “don’t let it get away”) left my entire being full of hope and positivity. When I looked around at everyone around me in the stadium, their smiling faces, raised hands and dancing bodies told me they felt the same.

Bono and his band filled the entire night with thought-providing imagery, much of it relating to the United States and quite a lot relating to the world at large. For those of us who bought U2’s ”Joshua Tree” album the first time around in ’87 and successive albums in the years to follow, the lyrics and emotion carried in the original releases resonated even deeper this time around. This, in theory, because by now, many of us have seen first-hand history repeating itself. Deeper along in our own personal journeys, many of us now have a keener understanding of what a global (and arguably a universal) disservice it is to ourselves and those we love when we see injustices play out locally, nationally, or globally and meet them with silence and inaction, when we respond by simply turning our backs and looking away.

U2 2017 Joshua Tree Concert Tour, Herstory, HERoes, honoring women, tribute to women, syrian refugees, impoverished countries, concert review

In the final third of the show, narrated interludes between songs by front man, Bono, make clear the message U2 intends to convey. Bono seems to express that it’s time to embrace the FEMALE ENERGY of this world and allow it to guide us to more peaceful resolutions of the grave situations brought on mostly by the aggressive inclinations of MANkind. Through extensive imagery, provided through a participatory project by Alice Wroe called “Herstory,” a parade of both familiar and not-so familiar female faces appear on the stage’s screens, each one a trail blazing woman who has changed the world in positive ways, who have been an inspiration for all women to be all they wish to be and to not be defined by the bitter, resentful, hateful, oppressive actions and words of the frightened, selfish, small-minded, small-hearted men of the world—especially such men who claim to be “leaders” of others. Many of these women are no longer with us, but I recognized many that still are alive and well.

While watching the images of these amazing women on the screen and hearing the frequent cheers from the audience, I can’t help but notice that many of the women shown have been marginalized and vilified by men in positions of power and influence, both in the United States and in countries all over the world. Yet these women persisted, resisted, and insisted on being heard, often at any cost, including physical harm and even death. To them, the cause was and is greater than themselves. The message within the images seems to be, and in fact the words were uttered by Bono, that we should recognize these women as a significant part of not just our HIStory, but of our HERstory, a phraseology that has been making headway in the U.S. and in the world in recent years. Though the books in our schools may never include the rightful acknowledgement of ALL the women, past and present, whom have played a critical role in the positive progression of the human species as a whole, the take-away message to me is:  Let us not give up on making the role of women a critical part of our FUTURE.

It seems clear to me now that I’ve reached the ripe “old” age of 57 that I’m blessed to be alive at all at this stage of life. It’s also become quite clear that I should never take this simple fact for granted, that there is no certainty that the youngest among us today will be as lucky as me to live this long. Quite literally, the future existence of this planet or at least the humans who are blessed to live upon it will depend greatly on the emergence of a new world order where women hold the keys to the shiny red buttons that tempt men and threaten our very existence.

The time for writing the books of HERstory is now. Bono, all the members of U2, and Alice Wroe along with U2’s creative director, Willie Williams, have done a profoundly beautiful job in helping us all imagine such a future for the United States, for the world at large, and for our continued peaceful co-existence in the wondrous, unique, ever expanding universe we call our home. This is the thoughtful, positive message U2 and its co-conspirators have shared to over a million people in the world this year. I’m grateful to have been one of the lucky ones who experienced it for myself first-hand. I will never forget this impactful concert and the message of hope wrapped within it.

U2’s Homepage:  http://www.u2.com

U2’s Herstory info page:  http://www.u2.com/news/title/herstory/handm_news/

U2’s Humanitarian Causes:  http://www.u2.com/heartsandminds

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Human Kindness: Debut of my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Human kindness is that certain essential something that surprises us in the darkest of moments. When the chips are down, when we’ve convinced ourselves we are alone in the world, somebody appears from nowhere and proves us wrong. Someone comes along when we least expect it and shines on us a light so bright that we are humbled by the experience. This special someone opens up our hearts and reminds us that we are all connected, that we are here to be help each other, that we are here to spread love and kindness every chance we get. Those of us who receive these kindnesses have been truly blessed.

I had exactly such an experience this past year when our car broke down on a dark highway in the middle of nowhere between California and Arizona. I wrote about that experience and am now humbled to have had the story published by the wonderful folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul. Chicken Soup has a long history of publishing beautiful true stories shared by their contributors of some of the most touching moments of our lives.

This is my second story published in a Chicken Soup book. The first story I had published was in 2016’s “Angels and Miracles” book (my story is called “The Desk”).

Today is the debut of my second Chicken Soup story. It appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s “My Kind (of) America:  101 Stories about the True Spirit of Our Country” (my story is called “Highway Breakdown”).

I hope you get a chance to buy the book and give it a read. I’m sure once you do, your heart will be lifted and you will be reminded how connected we all are and how much love and kindness there is in this country and in this world.

(If you like the book, please help promote human kindness by giving it a good review on Amazon. Thanks!)

Blessings to you all,

3 Days, 2 Nat’l Parks, 1 Bum Foot: Miracles and Inspiration

It’s early May and we have THREE days to see TWO National Parks with ONE traveler (namely, me) making do with an injured foot. My partner and I rendezvoused with another couple (my brother and sister-in-law) for three days in St. George, Utah, with a quest to see two outstanding U.S. National Parks–Zion and Bryce Canyon, both in southern Utah.

Our original intention was to hike ’til we dropped, but I recently had an untimely foot injury that kept me from going on THIS incredible backpacking trip in Grand Canyon. With a slowly healing foot (torn or ruptured ligament), I couldn’t expect to hike, but still, there was NO WAY I was going to miss out on seeing Zion and Bryce as planned. As it turns out, natural inspiration and human inspiration abounded on this trip.

BEFORE WE EVEN GOT THERE

Human Inspiration #1: Back From the Dead

My party and I set out on a new revised quest–to experience the visual overload of two of the nation’s “wow-factor” parks while functioning within certain agility limitations. To start the quest, I needed to equip myself with the right tools. I scored a decent walking stick at a souvenir shop (Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post, 1000 W. Hwy 9, Virgin, UT) on the way to Zion National Park.

early-American wagon, near Zion national park
An early-American wagon on the property of Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post in Virgin , UT

There I met Dona, a 51-year-old woman working the cashier who shared an inspiring story about herself. She casually mentioned she had died at age 44 from cardiac arrest and lay dead for a full 30 minutes before being revived.

Dona spoke like someone who knew more than most–about life, blessings, and miracles. Her after-life experience was so powerful that she revealed she often wishes she didn’t make it, that life here doesn’t quite “cut it” compared to the peace she experienced when “passing.” Much to her delight, Dona spent time with her grandmother on the “other side” and, much to her dismay, has missed Grandma greatly since.

Still, Dona had a certain strength and conviction about her. A quiet wisdom emerged from her words–something that amounted to: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I felt so moved and humbled to meet Dona, I reached out, shook her hand, and let her know I was happy she was still with us. I felt blessed to meet her. She is one of God’s walking miracles–a reminder for us all to keep it simple, live and love well, and, above all, be grateful. Everything that seems to have value to you can be taken away in an instant.

Zion National Park walking stick badge
Zion National Park “badge”

When I was ready to pay for my items, Dona helped me pick out a badge for my new walking stick (A badge is a nickname for the ‘bling’ sold to dress up, souvenirize–yeah, I know it’s not a real word–and customize your walking sticks). Check out my new badge in the photo.

The image of a wild elk reminds me of Dona and her strength and resolve to keep moving forward with whatever plans God has for her. She doesn’t seem to know exactly where she’s going, what exactly she’s supposed to do, but she has faith that it will all work out. Besides, she already knows how the story ends and is not the least bit frightened about it.

Zion National Park entrance signZION NATIONAL PARK

Natural Inspiration #1

Equipped with my newly decorated walking stick and walking orders from my doctor that I should NOT hike anytime in the near future (What a conundrum!), I set out to discover short, easy trails I could hike in Zion. The first happy revelation was that Zion has a terrific shuttle system that takes you across many must-see stops along a shuttle-only roadway. There is no need to hunt and fight for a parking space at Zion or to walk a long way from your car to the starting point of sights and trails at each stop. There are even shuttles running from nearby Springdale into Zion’s South Entrance if Zion’s Visitor Center parking lots are full. This was a huge concern for me, as I couldn’t envision tackling more than a half-mile round trip at any location, including the walk from transportation to trail head.

On the shuttle, a pre-canned tour guide’s voice provides interesting information about the park, but I have to say it was difficult to see clearly through tinted windows and around multiple obstructions in the shuttle bus framework. You must get out at each stop if you intend to see what there is to see. On the very first stop, we got to see this:

Zion National Park, Utah
Mule deer at Zion National Park
Wild turkey at Zion national park, Utah
Wild turkey at Zion National Park
Zion National Park shuttle
Zion National Park shuttle at the halfway point.

Allow 80 or 90 minutes to do the shuttle ride without getting off at any stops, and you will be rewarded with an 8-minute stop at the halfway point in order to stretch and use the restrooms if necessary. For each stop you get off at, add 10 minutes to your tour time for the next shuttle to appear. If you set off on trails for a short or long hike, shuttles conveniently run into late evening, with the last shuttle leaving the entrance visitor center at 7:30 p.m. in order to complete the full circuit by 9 p.m. Plan accordingly. (Note: shuttle schedule changes throughout the year; check links at end of this article for most current information.)

 

 

 

 

 

I ventured on two different trails at Zion. Even though I didn’t make it to the intended end point of each trail, I saw plenty to satisfy my senses:

mule deer at zion, antlers
Mule deer at Zion. Check out those antlers!

IMG_0612

Zion National Park, tunnels, shortcut to Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon

The Tunnel From South and West Zion to Zion’s East Entrance and on to Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park: one of two tunnels connecting the east entrance of the park to the south and west of park.

The shortest and most picturesque drive to Bryce Canyon National Park from points south and west of Zion is through the one-mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel within Zion National Park near its eastern entrance. Besides the time savings, there are many sights to dazzle your eyes along the way, so it is definitely worth the drive.

 

 

Zion National Park, Checkerboard Mesa, tunnel in Zion
Zion National Park: Checkerboard Mesa, on the road between Zion and Bryce Canyon. A massive patterned rock mountain that begs to be climbed.
Zion National Park, checkerboard mesa
. . . and so we did!

 

Bryce Canyon National Park, entranceBRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Natural Inspiration #2

Like Zion, Bryce Canyon has a shuttle system, but it only goes to a subset (albeit an excellent subset) of sights where cars can also go. One of those stops is Bryce Point. We took our car there and saw amazing rock formations in the valley below the parking area. It was here I felt most frustrated about having a foot injury. This is THE PLACE to hike. Something out of a fantasy movie, hikers moved below like elves among towering hoodoos (a name for the funky formations seemingly dripped like hot candle wax or wet sand into spindly spires.) There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these spires scattered across the valley floor.

Bryce Canyon National Park, accessibility, easy access, Bryce Point, hoodoo heaven, easy trail, awesome quick hike
Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Point. The trail towards Inspiration Point is easy enough to do a slow hike. Views are spectacular.

We saw this fully loaded bike parked along the fence and all pretty much said the same thing, Man, that bike has BEEN places!

Bryce Canyon National Park, Jeremie Geumetz, France
Wow! Bryce by bicycle. Wonder where the rider is.

Unlike Zion, Bryce Canyon also has a tour route accessible by car. On a Saturday in early May, we had no problem parking at each of the viewpoints. My favorite short hike was at Farview Point where we were able to hike right next to the tops of hoodoos and other formations, like arches and what looked like a 100-story cathedral organ. The winds were strong that day, and the effect on us at certain points on the trail was high exhilaration.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Farview Point, hoodoo heaven, easy trail, awesome quick hike
Bryce Canyon National Park: Farview Point. An excellent “bang for the buck” hiking trail. Take it as far as you have time for, turn around and head back. You’re immediately submerged in hoodoo heaven!
Bryce Canyon National Park, Farview Point, hoodoo heaven, easy trail, awesome quick hike
Bryce Canyon National Park: Farview Point. An excellent “bang for the buck” hiking trail. These hoodoos looked like a 100-foot high cathedral organ. I wonder if music would play if the wind were strong enough.
Bryce Canyon National Park, easy access view, accessibility, hoodoo heaven, natural bridge, awesome views
Bryce Canyon National Park: Natural Bridge, viewable from the parking area.

 

Human Inspiration #2: How Far Determination Takes You

Jeremie Geumetz, France, bicycling South America, Central America, North America, Zion National Park
Hey, there’s that bike again!

At Farview Point, we came upon that bike again. This time, we also came upon it’s owner, the human version of amazing–Jeremie Geumetz, a French bicyclist. When I saw his worn, heavily packed bicycle, I had to know his story.

long-distance bicyling, Jeremie Geumetz, France, South America, Central America, North America
Jeremie Geumetz–a man who clearly LOVES to bike!

“Hi. Can I ask how many miles you’ve traveled so far?”

“I dunno. 17,000 or 18,000,” he answered in a heavy French accent.

Surprised by the response, my brain dug through and re-processed his French-English. “Thousand?” I asked. “Miles?

“Oui.”

From there on, I had a flood of questions, and Jeremie was all too happy to oblige.

Jeremie lives in France. While we were talking, an older couple overheard and joined the conversation, soon discovering they lived only 20 miles away from him, in Belgium.

Jeremie started his trip in Patagonia, South America. His intention is to bicycle from South America through Central America to northernmost North America where he hopes to reach Alaska (weather permitting) by September. With 17,000 or so miles under his belt, he still has another roughly 4,000 to go.

By now, I’d called the rest of my crew over, “This guy has ridden 17,000 miles!”

“When was the last time you shaved?” one of us asked.

He tugged on his beard seeking our confirmation that he understood the question topic, and when we nodded yes, he said, “Columbia.”

“How long have you been on this trip?” I asked.

“Since November 22nd.”

I began counting aloud the number of months since November, “Wow! That’s a long time.”

“2012,” Jeremie said, correcting my counting.

“What?! And why are you doing this? Any particular reason?”

“Not really. I like to bike. We French like to bike.”

And how! This Frenchman loves to bike and he loves to connect with people. He was gracious with his time and patient with our questions–a true gentleman with a warm spirit and a love for life. We all shook his hand as we parted company and told Jeremie repeatedly what an inspiration he was to us. The power of the human spirit is incredible. It can drive us to press toward the outer limits of our existence, to experience something unique and powerful, something that becomes a part of us as we travel through life.

On the drive back to our hotel that evening, we ran into stormy weather. Wild winds whipped our car from every direction. Tumbleweeds raced alongside us on the highway at 60 mph and wicked lightening continuously lit up the sky. The news reports delivered the adjusted weather report: a violent storm was expected to drop two feet of snow at the higher elevations in our area. By morning, the distant Zion mountains were white-tipped, and we wondered and worried about Jeremie. (This is, by the way, the third time recently that my partner and I encountered unexpected snow on hikes in unlikely locations this year: See Snow in Hawaii: Worth the Trip and check out Little Jimmy Trail Camp: Backpacking ‘Sno(w) Problem Along the PCT)

Luckily, before we parted company, I’d asked Jeremie for contact information. I knew I wanted to write about him. Turns out Jeremie has a website; I am listing it here with his permission: www.2rouesvagabondes.fr

He also is on Facebook: Jeremie Geumetz , https://www.facebook.com/jeremie.geumetz

Checking his website for updates, we found out our Frenchman made it through the stormy, snowy night. We also found out he is a talented photographer. Check out his online sites for a dose of inspiration.

Jeremie Geumetz, France, long-distance bicycling, South America, Central America, North America, Zion National Park
Jeremie Geumetz. A Frenchman and a gentleman.

 

ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE

All in all, it is possible to see two national parks in just a few days, even with an injured foot. Whatever your condition or situation, it’s definitely worth the trip. Natural inspiration and human inspiration await you. All you have to do is get in a car, on a bike, or on your feet, and open your eyes, your heart, and your soul to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Get outside, folks, and make a point of checking out the U.S. National Parks. They are amazing!

Happy Trails,

Sue J.

P.S. Stay tuned for our three-week-long National Park road trip in August where we’ll revisit Utah’s Zion and Bryce (this time for some REAL hiking!), as well as Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef in Utah, not to mention Olympic in the state of Washington, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in Wyoming. We’re traveling in our homemade teardrop trailer (the Silver Bullet) and will bring our 80-pound dog along for the ride. Should be interesting!


LINKS to Zion and Bryce websites:

Zion National Park:  http://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm

Zion Maps & Guide:  http://www.nps.gov/zion/parknews/newspaper.htm

Bryce Canyon National Park:  http://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

Bryce Canyon Map, Shuttle & Hiking Guide:  http://www.nps.gov/brca/parknews/newspaper.htm


 

Sidebar:

Good Eats Nearby:

Ice Cream at Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post, 1000 W. Hwy 9, Virgin, Utah. Omigosh, the BEST homemade ice cream! Unique and delectable flavors. We had the following three and they all were great: Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel Truffle, Orange Cream & Dark Chocolate, and Hog Wild (Brown Sugared Bacon).

Fort Zion Virgin Trading Post is on Facebook as “Virgin Trading Post/FORT ZION”

Bacon-Wrapped Buffalo Meatloaf at Wildcat Willy’s, 897 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, Utah, outside the South entrance to Zion National Park. An L.A. Times recommended dish comes with a generous portion of meatloaf (a tasty blend of Certified Angus Beef grinds and buffalo grinds, peppers, onions and seasonings wrapped with bacon, crusted with roasted garlic and cracked pepper) on a mound of garlic mashed potatoes topped with a sweet onion gravy and crispy onion strings. A surprisingly delicate, buttery side of Al dente julienne vegetables finishes off the plate.

Wildcat Willie’s:  http://www.wildcatwillies.com/ordereze/default.aspx

Great Dog Boarding Facility:

Doggie Dude Ranch outside the South entrance to Zion National Park in Rockville (800 E. Main, Hwy 9, Rockville, UT 84763). The owner, Filomena, showed us around her dog boarding facility, a large property running along the length of a stream where she’ll take your dog for a daily waterside walk if you wish. In the summer, the dogs keep cool with overhead water misters or with air conditioning in enclosed structures. Be careful when you visit the grounds.  Humans are as likely to enjoy the tranquil location every bit as much as the dogs.

Doggie Dude Ranch:  http://www.doggyduderanch.com/